Minneapolis Guitar Quartet - Thrum | Album review
The classical guitar ensemble embarks on a cultural journey.
Now in its third decade, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet has sealed its name as one of the leading and most versatile classical-guitar ensembles in the country. In addition to a solid-gold repertoire that spans Renaissance, Romantic, Baroque and everything in between, the group has earned a reputation for innovative interpretations of contemporary compositions.
On its fifth full-length, MGQ hones in on four contemporary composers who have penned music especially for the quartet. Haitian composer Daniel Bernard Roumain’s “Ghetto Strings” spans four lush, rhythmically complex movements inspired by urban landscapes. The outfit takes a different turn with David Evan Thomas’s titular composition, which imagines the group’s four guitars as one unified instrument. The intertwining counterpoint reveals a natural beauty, like vines gently weaving around the same tree.
At ten movements, Van Stiefel’s “Cinema Castaneda” flexes the most sonic muscle. In the album’s liner notes, Steifel says he visualized the quartet as “ranchers around a campfire after a day traversing vast spaces.” The result is an upbeat, sometimes bittersweet ramble that reminds listeners of the guitar’s potential to evoke the spirit of the open road. Thrum’s unadulterated recording lets the beauty of the instrument’s sound shine through even the most dense textures, as is the case with Gao Hong’s lovely “Guangxi Impression,” which teams the classical guitar with the composer’s pipa (a Chinese lute) to create a fusion of musical traditions.
Like the individual guitar lines intertwining to create each piece, the sum of Thrum’s parts is its strength. The album offers a cultural journey across a wildly melodic, rhythmically diverse territory that allows MGQ to show off its considerable technical prowess at every turn.